Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall


I remember seeing this book everywhere when it first came out, and since I love reading books about feminism, I was really eager to read it. Now that I've finally gotten my grubby mitts on it, I can say that it mostly lived up to my expectations. In this book, Mikki Kendall illustrates (with examples) how feminism has historically failed women of color, and how white women can broaden their intellectual scope to be more inclusive to the intersectional branches of feminism, including BIPOC women, LGBT+ women, and women living below the party line (and these groups are not mutually exclusive). I think the biggest takeaway from this book is that "white feminism" often looks to increase and broaden existing privilege, which doesn't always work for people who already have little to none. While some women are pushing for advancement to a CEO position, others can't get work. Period. In addition to being a rallying call to action and a blistering recounting of harsh but necessary truths, it's also a cautionary tale against being short-sighted and selfish when it comes to pushing for change.

That said, as other reviews have noted, I do feel that this is more of a primer for said privileged women (including myself) than it is for BIPOC women who already know this stuff and probably don't need to be told twice. I do think it's worth reading though because Kendall has a beautiful way with words, and I love the way that she chooses them so as to express her points in language that is spare, concise, and cutting. For me, the best feminist essays are emotionally charged, and include self-referential or autobiographical elements, so in addition to getting the author's viewpoint, you also see how they got to that viewpoint from within the framework of their own lives. You really get that here, and I think it added to the essays in a really positive and beneficial way.

Some of the topics discussed in here are gentrification, fetishization and hyper-sexualization of women of color, gun control and gun violence, discrimination in all forms, microaggresions, tone policing and respectability politics, poverty, food stamps, and violence against women. I thought the chapters about hyper-sexualization and about food stamps were the strongest, and I felt like the author did a good job showing how both society and the government fail women (working or no) who require basic things to take care of themselves and/or their children. I also liked the chapter about how society forces women-- especially BIPOC women-- to grow up too fast, usually against their will, and how these preconceived notions of a woman's coming-of-age can lead to violence or a dispassionate reaction to seeing violence being committed against BIPOC women. The line about respectability politics made me especially thoughtful because it reminded me of a Tweet I saw condemning people (so-called feminists) for the way they talked about Caitlin Jenner and basically misgendering her or making fun of her, and how it's not feminist or progressive to misgender people when critiquing them because it suggests that people are only worthy of their identities when we're in agreement with them, when this should be a basic tenet of decency, if not a human right. I feel like Kendall was making a similar point with this book: that Black women are more than just examples to be held up to make a throwaway argument for cheap points, and that they are rightfully owed a voice and a position at the table, whether or not they are making white feminists at that same table uncomfortable with their thoughts and views.

There were a couple essays in this book that didn't resonate with me as much (the parenting one, mostly because I am child-free and can't really imagine motherhood and the sacrifices that comes with, even though I appreciated her points about child rearing as a BIPOC woman and how that can differ for some BIPOC women below the poverty line who don't have access to the resources that might make parenting a relative breeze for someone with access to more resources, etc.), but there were none that I disliked. I will say that, at times, it sometimes felt like the author was imagining the face of white feminism as a yoga-pants wearing, Whole Foods-shopping, Taylor Swift-listening caricature of privilege, and while that is certainly one face of white feminism-- and perhaps the one that this book is geared primarily towards since they have the most social power and cachet when it comes to privilege-- I do think it's a tactical error to resort to this sort of bland stereotyping when making these sorts of arguments, as it chips away at the otherwise solid rhetoric that anyone could stand to open their mind and check their privilege and makes it far too easy for people to say, "Well, I'm not like that. This doesn't apply to ME." Maybe we're just brushing people like that off as a lost cause for being too thick to realize that this book was written about them, but it's still worth noting, imo.

But over all, this was great. Definitely lived up to the hype. I hope she posts another collection.

3.5 to 4 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.